Nobody thinks they’re having a heart attack or stroke, or something truly life-threatening, until it actually happens.
It can be easy to shrug off chest pain as indigestion, or shortness of breath as just being winded. Trekking up Mt. Tabor, or even to the top of Burnside, can leave even an avid hiker out of breath. But these are common heart attack symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored. The same is true with dizziness, loss of balance and double vision, which are actually common signs of stroke.
When you or a loved one has a medical emergency, it can be tempting to jump in the car and rush to the emergency room. Or in Portland, you might hop on your bike and peddle over to the nearest urgent care if you’re feeling dizzy or nauseous.
Call 911 if you think you’re having a heart attack or stroke
The best thing to do is call for help.
If you or a loved one is experiencing a potentially life-threatening emergency, such as a heart attack or stroke, you should call 911. Never try to drive yourself to the hospital. When an ambulance is called, Paramedics can start treatment as soon as they arrive, (up to an hour sooner than if someone goes to the hospital by car), and will quickly get you on the way to the hospital. “It’s easy to deny symptoms of heart attack or stroke, but making the call to 9-1-1 is the most important thing you or a family member can do,” says Lucie Drum, EMT, and Public Education Manager for American Medical Response.
Every second counts when you’re having a heart attack or stroke. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Oregon, and stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in Oregon. Combined, heart disease, diabetes and stroke account for 28 percent of deaths in the state.
“Too frequently we have patients who drive themselves or a loved one to the hospital, and then they find out that they’re having a heart attack,” says Dr. Erik Egsieker, an ER physician at Adventist Health Portland. “We encourage people to call 911 if they think they’re having a true medical emergency, because it can mean the difference between life and death.”
Portland’s shortest ER wait times
For heart and brain emergencies, it’s critical that you get the right care, at the right place, in the right amount of time, by the right doctors and providers.
According to ProPublica and a recent article in the Portland Business Journal, Adventist Health Portland has the shortest ER wait times in the metro area.
On average, it takes just 16 minutes to get from the door to a doctor at Adventist Health’s ER in the event of an emergency. And when you get there, you can expect some of the top care you can receive in the state, and the country.
Adventist Health Portland is ranked in the top five percent in the nation for patient safety and is a Five Star Hospital for Community Value. You can learn more about Adventist Health’s emergency department on a recent podcast with Dr. Egsieker, an emergency medicine specialist.
Call 911 if you’re experiencing these heart attack symptoms
- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Symptoms Vary Between Men and Women
As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Warning signs for stroke and when you should call 9-1-1
- Numbness in the face
- Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs, especially on one side of the body
- Difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes
- Trouble talking or understanding what others are saying
- Severe headache for unknown reason or changes in vision
- Loss of coordination or balance
For every second that passes during a stroke, millions of brain cells are destroyed. If you think you or a loved one is having a stroke, remember to B-E F-A-S-T
B – Balance: Does the person have a sudden loss of balance or coordination?
E – Eyes: Is your loved one experiencing double vision or are they unable to see out of one eye?
F – Face: Is one side of the face drooping? Ask the person to smile.
A – Arms: Does one arm drift downward? Have the person raise both arms in the air.
S – Speech: Is he or she slurring their speech or having difficulty getting the words out right? Have the person repeat a simple phrase.
T – Time: Time to act! Call 9-1-1 and get the person to a Certified Stroke Center immediately, such as Adventist Medical Center.
Author: LivingWell PDX Blog
Adventist Health is committed to creating a healthier Portland community.